Consideration of Costs in Personal injury Claims
Costs can be significant in a personal injury claim. These costs can include the standard filing fees, depositions costs, travel costs, and so on. In addition, there can also be significant expert witness costs on both sides of the lawsuit.
In some cases, a number of experts in different fields may be necessary. For instance, accident reconstruction experts may be required to determine the cause of an accident. Medical experts may be required to determine the cause and extent of injuries. Vocational rehabilitation experts may be required to determine disability. Economic experts may be required to prove loss of future income. There are countless other situations where the specialized knowledge of an expert would be needed. And again, these costs occur on both sides of the lawsuit.
Depending on the nature of the accident and the lawsuit, these costs can be enormous. For instance, for every expert there will be a deposition by the other side‘s attorney. Often out of state experts are required due to required expertise. The attorneys will have to travel to the expert, often requiring expensive travel expenses. The attorney or party requesting the deposition will also have to pay what are often very hefty hourly rates to the expert.
Many of the same costs, other than the hourly fees, apply to fact witnesses. Just like the experts, these witnesses are often out of state the same requiring the same travel expenses for their deposition. Finally, there are the court reporters that must be in attendance at each and every deposition. Court reporters are very expensive.
As one can see, a personal injury lawsuit can get very expensive very quickly for both sides. In light of this fact, clients generally want to know who will pay for these costs. In most run of the mill contingency cases, the costs are advanced by the attorney. The attorney is then reimbursed from any settlement or verdict. So ultimately, the client is responsible since the costs are paid out of the total verdict or settlement. This in turn reduces the proceeds that the client eventually receives.
Because the client is ultimately responsible for costs, clients need to consider all the possible costs of litigation at each stage of the case. Litigation costs should be carefully considered during settlement discussions. This includes pre-litigation settlement negotiations when potential costs are not so apparent as when the litigation begins.
Often times, clients have a figure in mind of what their case is worth. Many personal injury cases are emotionally charged and deeply personal which will sometimes influence the desired outcome. Without going into a discussion of the accuracy of these valuations, suffice it to say that the clients are prone both to overvalue their claims and to fail to consider the costs of getting to that figure when emotions rather than reason drive the valuation process . Often times, however, these costs will more than offset the possibility of a higher verdict or even a higher settlement further into the litigation process.
Though it can be very hard, it is generally best to try to look at the case in purely economic terms. This means carefully assessing the strengths of the case, the risks of litigation and the costs of litigation from beginning to end. Failure to approach the case with all this mind can result in a client netting less on a larger settlement or verdict than on a smaller one reached earlier in the process. And that is a net loss that can often be avoided.
Collins & Collins, P.C.
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